The Interplay of Aspirations, Enjoyment, and Work Habits in Academic Endeavors: Why Is It So Hard to Keep Long-Term Commitments?
by Diane Lemonnier Schallert, Joylynn Hailey Reed & Jeannine E Turner - 2004
This article describes our interest in bringing together students' emotions and their motivation for academic work as these play out across the school year. We explore three main issues. First, we consider what some view as an incompatibility between students' use of established work habits (volitional strategies) and real enjoyment of academic tasks (what we call involvement). Rather than seeing these two approaches as diametrically opposed, we show how volitional control can be useful in getting a student to experience involvement in a task. Conversely, we consider how involvement itself can be an incentive to students' use of volitional strategies. A second issue has to do with students realizing that long-term goals may require different volitional strategies than short-term goals. Finally, we discuss the need to encourage students to develop the habit of seeking enjoyment in academic tasks because the goal of enjoyment focuses them on the rewards of deep concentration rather than on the elation of having finished a task.
One of the loveliest things about academia is the rhythm of the school year. Each September, students begin anew establishing a relationship with a content area, a teacher or professor, and a community of peers in each of the courses they are taking. From middle school on, students must negotiate this process with several courses, teachers, and peer groups. Once they enter college, the number of courses may be slightly fewer, four or five instead of six or seven, but the rhythm becomes even more pronounced, with the beginnings and endings of 15-week semesters marking the progression through a course of study that culminates in a college degree. With the start of each semester, students (and their teachers) feel an optimistic rush of new beginnings, a feeling that all will be well and that things will work out better than they ever have in the past. As the semester or year unfolds, reality may dampen those optimistic expectations, but one is buoyed by the thought that an end is truly in sight and a new beginning will be available with the next term. For those who appreciate the idea of starting fresh in a new endeavor, this rhythm of academic life is truly an attraction.
And yet, although each new beginning may be an occasion for expansive feelings of hope, the demands of students lives, coming from personal and family responsibilities, social opportunities and obligations, health issues, and other distractions, can and often do interfere with what a student must actually do to achieve the goals so optimistically anticipated at the beginning of the term. Most directly, the demands students encounter in all of their courses compete for the precious hours they have to think, study, and write in any one of the courses they are taking. Physics interferes with doing well in psychology, and those two courses make it hard to spend the time needed to read the novels and write the papers required in contemporary English literature, let alone practice conversational Spanish and finish problem sets in calculus. In a research study we once conducted with undergraduates in a difficult, large lecture class on psychopharmacology (Schallert, Turner, & Schallert, 1995), we found that students began the semester reporting that they expected to do very well in the course, with very few students expecting a C and most students reporting they anticipated an A. However, not all students hoping for an A were willing or able to put in the effort the course required, and with the return of the first exam some students chose to revise their expectations for the final grade rather than increase the amount of time and effort they allocated to the class.
Similarly, in another study with community college students (Schallert, Reed, Turner, & McCann, 1997), we found that students expectations at the beginning of the semester were not highly predictive of their expectations just before the final exam or with the actual grades earned. Also, students interest, the amount of time they reported engaging in class activities, and the strategies they used to keep on task showed a steady decline across the semester. Although these declines at first seemed mysterious, we were not surprised by them once we took into account the number of responsibilities these community college students reported. There were enough full-time jobs, childcare duties, and heavy course loads to make us wonder when the students ever found time to sleep, let alone study.
In this article, we are interested in exploring how it is that students maintain their commitment to long-term academic goals, remaining motivated and hardworking even in the face of early disasters and competing goals. Even though many students in our studies lost their optimism as the semester progressed, a large group of them did maintain their commitment and increased their investment of effort, leading us to wonder what it was that allowed these students to reach the semesters end having fulfilled at least some of their goals. And it is not simply that those who succeed are the academically able or well-prepared students who never encounter difficulties as the semester unfolds. As Turner and Schallert (2001) demonstrated, students can experience a deep amount of shame as they receive their first exam grades, even if the grade was relatively good, a B, say, when a student had expected and hoped for an A. These shame-experiencing students could be categorized into resilient and nonresilient groups. We were very interested in discovering what it was about those in the resilient group that allowed them to recover their emotional footing, recommit to their goals for the class, and invest even more effort to their studies. As we discuss shortly, an important part of the answer was that these students aspirations as expressed at the beginning of the semester had been more explicitly stated and more highly valued than those of students in the nonresilient group.
Researchers refer to aspirations as goals and give them important status in current theories of human motivation (e.g., Pintrich, 2000). We are interested here in exploring two additional processes affecting academic effort: the volitional strategies students invoke to protect their momentum in reaching goals (Corno, this issue; McCann & Turner, this issue) and the experience of feeling totally captivated by an academic task, what Csikszentmihalyi (1990) called flow and we (Reed & Schallert, 1993) refer to as involvement. Our interest in this article is to explore how students goals, their volitional strategies, and their experience of deep involvement in academic endeavors contribute to an understanding of the rhythm of the emotional and motivational lives of students across semesters.
This interest we have in the emotions of students, and not simply their motivation, is increasingly echoed in the work of motivation theorists. For example, Pekrun (2000) proposed a model in which emotions, motivation, and cognition are related reciprocally in academic achievement. The model describes how students are influenced by initial conditions, such as feelings of competence they bring to a learning situation and the kind of support present in the context that allows independent action with minimal interference or assistance from others. These antecedent conditions influence the students appraisal of particular academic tasks, such as whether the student can or cannot control the outcome and whether he or she places a high or low value on success in this task. These appraisals of control and value in turn lead to what Pekrun called academic emotions, such as excitement in learning something new, hope that outcomes will be positive, satisfaction in having done well, pride in recognized success, or a host of negative emotions, such as anxiety, boredom, despair, shame. It is these emotions that fuel the motivated recruitment of strategies and cognitive resources that then influence achievement, whether positive or negative. Pekrun has been keen to emphasize the reciprocal nature of these relationships; that is, emotions and outcomes influence students feelings of competence, and the more or less successful use of motivational strategies has an impact on subsequent emotions as well as on students appraisals of control and value.
This model is useful because it integrates emotions with motivation and cognition. Earlier expectancy-value models of motivation held that an individuals motivation for a particular task depends on the students expectancy for success and the positive outcomes that it confers as well as on how much the student values the task. Pekruns (2000) model replaces the construct of expectancy or hope for success with the idea of whether success seems within ones personal control. The two main appraisal questions in Pekruns model become Do I have control over my success in this task? and Do I value succeeding at this task? These two questions can be used to categorize most of the important motivational variables that are currently being investigated by educational psychologists. Work on explanations for success or causal attributions (Weiner, 1992), research on efficacy expectations or self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997), self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2002), and self-regulated learning (Zimmerman & Schunk, 2001), for example, can all be explained within the control dimension. Conceptions of personal identification with tasks (Harter, Bresnick, Bouchey, & Whitesell, 1997), utility value (Wigfield & Eccles, 1992), and future goals (Husman & Lens, 1999) can be explained within the value dimension. For all its complexity, Pekruns model is useful because it explains more of what students experience in academic pursuits. His focus on the connections among appraisals, emotions, and motivational processes seems to represent the very nexus of the issues that come into play in better understanding what it is like to juggle multiple goals that extend to varying distances into the future (see also Stanford Aptitude Seminar, 2002).
To provide an even richer explanation of how students juggle the pursuit of multiple goals, we need to move beyond motivation theory into the realm of implementation or volition. In the rest of this article, we explore three issues relevant to explaining the complex interplay of processes that barrage and buoy students across the weeks and months of a course of study. First, we consider what some view as an incompatibility between students use of established work habits (volitional strategies) and real enjoyment of academic tasks (what we call involvement): working hard rather than enjoying the task. Rather than seeing these two approaches as diametrically opposed, we show how volitional control can be useful in getting a student to experience involvement in a task. Conversely, we see a reverse connection between volitional control and deep involvement in a task: Involvement itself can be an incentive to students use of volitional strategies. A second issue has to do with students realizing that long-term goals may require different volitional strategies than short-term goals. Students need to realize when they need to implement volitional strategies and to recognize that attractive temptations to fulfill short-term goals can lead them away from valued but more distant long-term goals. Finally, we discuss encouraging students to adopt the goal of enjoying an academic task, focusing on the rewards of deep concentration rather than on the elation of having finished the task. Although it is wonderfully gratifying to complete a task, to accomplish a goal, and to see a successful end to a commitment, it is possible that too much focus on the goal itself can unnecessarily reduce the enjoyment one experiences in the actual process of learning.
WORKING HARD AND ENJOYING THE WORK ARE NOT NECESSARILY INCOMPATIBLE
Enjoying ones work is certainly a common enough occurrence. We want to begin by describing the psychological state associated with what it means to find joy in a task. Notice that we are focusing here on the process itself, on the doing of a task rather than on its completion. As Maria Montessori (1966) described, one difference between a childs work and an adults work is that young children enjoy tasks for their own sake, whereas adults have been conditioned to hurry through tasks, mostly without joy, focused on producing outcomes. However, when it happens that we say we enjoy our work, we are often referring to the fact that the work itself captures our attention and engages us in activities that seem exactly suited to our level of ability, skills, knowledge, and attitudes, just challenging enough to reward us with satisfaction as the task unfolds. Enjoyable work seems to play tricks with the clock, making us feel that we have lost track of time. Finally, a characteristic of enjoyable work is that it is its own reward, not dependent on the extrinsic incentives so inherent and often expected in what it means to work.
This experience of enjoyment is what we are attempting to capture with the concept of involvement (Reed & Schallert, 1993; Schallert & Reed, 1997). Like Csikszentmihalyi (1990) and his description of flow in optimal experiences, we see involvement as a state of mind that combines deep concentration and a continuously renewed sense of comprehending and meeting task requirements: Involvement occurs when the construction of meaning is going well (Schallert & Reed, 1997, p. 78). It is a state that fluctuates throughout the doing of a task. Thus, a task that will eventually grab a student and engender deep involvement may begin rather inauspiciously. As time passes, falling into involvement may lead the student to lose track of his or her physical surroundings for minutes, even hours, while all attention is riveted on the task. When students experience involvement, there is a sense of unforced ease with the task and of joy at the challenges it offers. Students who are involved in a task lose their sense of self-conscious worries or concerns with anything else but the task. Eventually, when the task is finished or when the student is interrupted by a ringing bell signaling the end of class or by a parent announcing dinnertime, involvement is released. The student reenters the everyday world of competing goals and shallow attention.
We begin by describing the state of involvement in some detail because we see it as an important counterweight to considerations of students work habits and self-regulation strategies. In descriptions of motivated students, parents and teachers rarely distinguish between what it means for a student to choose on his or her own to engage in a task and what it means for a student to be intrinsically motivated to learn. In some ways, they are correct to see these as equivalent: So long as the student willingly engages in academic work, what need is there to distinguish between enjoyment of a task and motivation to choose to accomplish a task? And yet, as Deci and Ryan (2002) argued, there are many flavors of extrinsic motivation, some of which include the highly self-determined student who identifies with a task and shows a sort of extrinsic motivation that might be helpful for accomplishing the work, even though the student does not report a true intrinsic interest and love of the task. In our own research, we find these two approaches to be qualitatively different; intrinsic involvement has consequences for learning and motivation over and above what can be expected from engaging in a task without deep involvement, even if the student elects to engage in the task, as we discuss shortly.
What if a particular task for a particular student in a particular situation is simply not involving? How does that work get accomplished? This is where volitional strategies become important. Being a hard worker or a good worker means having the self-control to tackle and finish a job even when the work is not intrinsically rewarding. In her description of volition, Corno (1993) emphasized how volitional strategies help learners protect concentration and directed effort in the face of personal and/or environmental distractions (p. 17). Apart from sophisticated use of learning strategies such as organizing and using feedback, a student using volitional control is strategic about protecting his or her motivation to begin a task, to maintain effort, and to see it to completion. Kuhl (2001) mentioned that students who are adept at volitional regulation know how to arrange and control their learning environments (e.g., find a quiet place to study, log off the Instant Messaging account) as well as how to manage their concentration, control their emotions, and monitor whether they are making due progress or need to bring their attention back to the task.
Juxtaposing an involved student with a volitionally strategic student highlights nicely the contrast between these two styles of work. Though both students are engaged in the task and though the task may get done successfully by either of them, the involved student is not expending energy fighting against distractions, watching the clock go by slowly, dutifully trudging through problem after problem of math homework or sentence after sentence of a French vocabulary lesson. The two students may differ as well in the emotions they experience as they see a task successfully completed, relief in the case of the volitionally controlled student and elation in the case of the involved student who may even experience a touch of wistfulness that the task is over (see Corno, this issue, Table 2).
And yet there is at least one point from inception to completion of a task when the two students may be remarkably alike. At the very beginning of the process, when the task still looms ahead, many students experience an initial reluctance, even those who know they are likely to get involved in the task once they begin. Even if joy in doing the task is a reasonable anticipation, students can see the effort that the task will demand and can mourn over the separation they know they will experience from the rest of the world once they begin the task. In a study by Reed, Schallert, and Deithloff (2002), college students enrolled in a writing course reported that they needed to allot more time than they had expected for any one writing session to experience involvement while writing. The early stages of writing were particularly sensitive to whether students had developed ways of forcing themselves to get started. Students reported that they often experienced painful drudgery for an extended period of time before the task would take over their consciousness. When compared to the precipitous fall into involvement that a good book could engender, writing tasks took much longer to ensnare their masters. During those minutes (or hours) at the beginning of the task, volitional strategies were the salvation of students, a fallback resource that allowed involvement gradually to take over. Such strategies as making a detailed plan for finishing a task, reducing the likelihood of disruptions and distractions, and approaching a study session in good physical and psychological shape, well-fed, well-rested, and emotionally balanced, were very helpful in bridging the period from start of task to falling into flow.
Thus, rather than seeing work habits and enjoyment of work as unrelated or even antithetical to each other, we are proposing that good workers know that they may need to trick themselves into getting started on a task to let themselves experience all the processes that define involvement. The involved student and the volitionally strategic student can be and often are the same person. Especially when we think of the long-term nature of many academic endeavors, involvement cannot be the only motivational hook on which to hang ones hat. Because it necessarily waxes and wanes, and always experiences disruption, involvement is more useful in describing students motivated engagement in short-term tasks. Eventually ones physical needs, if nothing else, break through even the deepest concentration, and the period of deep involvement ends. Volitional strategies are then helpful in creating the conditions that will help a student reengage in the many tasks that make up a full commitment to a long-term goal.
Involvement can be the incentive for volitional strategies. Having accepted that it is possible for the same student to show both the effortful willing of self to begin a task as well as the effortless experience of deep involvement once the task takes over, we want to discuss one more coupling that can occur between volition and involvement. Although volition may be very helpful as an impetus to getting started, it should not be relevant once a student is deeply involved in the task. Because involvement, by definition, is a state during which a person is wholly absorbed by the task and experiences no extraneous thoughts or feelings, it follows that volitional strategies must precede but not co-occur with involvement. However, this relationship from volition to involvement does not preclude the possibility that involvement may itself act as a reward for volitional strategies and therefore as incentive in the future for the use of work habits that result in involvement.
In our research over the years, students have often reported that the aftermath of having been deeply involved in a task included strong positive emotions (e.g., Reed et al., 2002). These positive feelings, coming at the conclusion of a task, acted retrospectively, allowing students to bask in the pleasure of the experience and, prospectively, leading students to want to become involved again. The consequence of a situation in which volition has worked to get a student involved is that the student now knows and trusts that the particular volitional strategies used will work to recreate the pleasurable experience of being involved. Although volitional strategies are often presented as necessary evils, we want to argue that they may deserve a more favorable reputation. Work habits can lead one to enjoyment, and enjoyment can lead one to remember to use the same work habits to recreate the joyful experience.
Such a view of volition is consistent with Cornos (this issue) and Kuhls (2001) and may lead us to consider more specifically the effects that different kinds of strategies provoke. As McCann and Turner (this issue) described, volitional strategies come in different flavors. They can be deterrents (such as the use of negative incentives or self-penance), and they can be encouragements (such as direct attempts to reduce stress or enhance self-efficacy). In terms of the reciprocal relationship between volitional strategies and involvement, it is possible that only certain kinds of strategies can be productively tied to involvement. It may be that in anticipating the positive experience of involvement, students must forgo negative-based volitional strategies such as dire predictions (e.g., If I dont study now, Ill flunk the exam) that bring on negative emotions and use positive strategies instead (e.g., say Ill get involved soon if I can only focus for 5 minutes). This idea is ripe for future research.
KNOWING WHEN AND WHICH VOLITIONAL STRATEGIES TO USE FOR SHORT- VERSUS LONG-TERM GOALS
There are important, but often overlooked, differences required for accomplishing short-term and long-term goals. When it comes to academic goals, some students are good at getting involved in a particular task but founder in maintaining their motivation between tasks to accomplish long-term goals. Others know how to succeed at longer term goals, sometimes without ever experiencing the state of involvement in academic tasks we have described. Of course, situations in which students can do both are coveted because here we have students experiencing joy in the moment of doing a task as well as remaining strategically focused even when involvement wanes. Students who are good at short-term goals know how to harness certain volitional strategies to get them over an initial hump so they can fall into involvement. To achieve success in longer term tasks, such as writing a good term paper, these students need to know how to ride the waves of involvement without forgetting the outcomes they want eventually to achieve. Semesters are long and made up of many concerns and events that can easily derail a well-intentioned student. Different kinds of volitional strategies may be necessary in different situations to achieve short-term as opposed to long-term goals.
Where do students learn these different strategic approaches, these different work habits? To a large extent, work habits are learned by modeling what a young person sees important others doing, by the influence of explicit messages about work (yes, lectures do have an effect), and by the diffuse and yet powerful influence of ones culture. For example, Japanese children from a very early age are encouraged in myriads of ways to persevere in the face of barriers (Shigaki, 1987). It is very possible that views of work, whether, for example, one should ever hope that it be enjoyable, are shared, reinterpreted, and eventually internalized, the result of sociocultural forces at work. A student from Taiwan once asked one of us, Why do American teachers worry so much about whether their students will be happy when doing schoolwork? To her, learning was always a struggle, and such struggling was incompatible with happiness. Happiness came after the learning had occurred, she asserted. In our informal queries of students from various programs in the college of education, we found that international students almost always saw her comment as natural and unremarkable, whereas students raised in an American educational context saw it as problematic, less than ideal, a sad result of poor instruction. As views of the educational process take on a more sociocultural cast, we realize that even volition, a construct that would seem individualistic in the extreme, needs to be reformulated to reflect these social and cultural sources of influence, as has been done most recently by Corno and Mandinach (in press).
In addition, students become more sophisticated about their volitional strategies by experimentation and self-observation, becoming selective and strategic about work habits that help them accomplish their goals. Adolescence is a crucial time for this developing sense of self-control. The more similar current tasks and goals are to previous situations, the more likely students are to use the same volitional strategies that were successful in the past. Work habits can truly become habitual to the point that students who are not very strategic or less than fully reflective may try to use volitional strategies that worked for one kind of task when a different approach is needed for a different task.
Thus, some students may decide to use volitional strategies that are helpful only for short-term goals even though they may suspect that these strategies will not lead them any closer to accomplishing their long-term goals. For example, a student may wait until the last minute to write a short one-page essay about a poem because the pressure of a looming deadline serves as a very effective volitional strategy to force engagement in the writing task. We have had students tell us that they use procrastination precisely because of the anxiety an imminent deadline produces; they become desperate and use these negative emotions to push themselves to complete the task even when the quality of the work suffers. A few have reported that the emergency of the deadline allowed them finally to focus only on the task that had to be done and that the involvement that resulted under such circumstances led to positive emotions once the task was finished. It is easy to see in such a situation how procrastination could actually be rewarded.
However, a reliance on procrastination as a volitional strategy may be disastrous for assignments that require a much longer investment of time. One of the problems many successful high school students encounter when they begin college courses is that that they are unprepared for the semester-long assignments assigned by their college professors (Cobb, 2002). In fact, students who use procrastination as a strategy for dealing with writing assignments have told us that they found themselves getting involved as they tackled their short essays as soon as they could think of what they wanted to say, whereas the organization, planning, and motivation needed for longer documents stymied them. To accomplish the longer tasks, students who can manage themselves well enough when facing shorter writing assignments must learn to use volitional strategies to help themselves begin to write, keep on writing, stop writing, and begin writing again through multiple sessions. Especially when considering the different demands that short-term and longer term assignments place on students, it is easy to appreciate how ones repertoire of strategies needs to be augmented with the ability to diagnose the type of volitional strategies needed for different situations.
MAKING JOY THE GOAL RATHER THAN FOCUSING SIMPLY ON TASK COMPLETION
Any adult invested in the success of a young person knows the thrill of seeing that young person do well at academic endeavors. Significant points of reckoning, such as report cards that mark the end of a grading period or graduation ceremonies that mark the end of high school or college, are occasions for pride, satisfaction, and happiness. When the path of progress is less successful, these reckoning points may occasion disappointment and worry or perhaps a resolute investment in helping the young person do better in the future. In our goal-driven society, these endpoints are valued because they mark the accomplishment of tasks, the reaching of goals, the completion of an undertaking. When we are in a cynical mood, we may even speak of just finishing that degree, implying that instead of appreciating the learning that is supposed to happen, we care more about the letters after ones name that the official degree will confer. Young students protest loudly if made to work hard on a particular assignment that is being graded simply for completion. Except for these cynical moments that may sit uneasily on our minds, we easily celebrate the accomplishments of our students, seeing in the fulfillment of their personal goals a sign that greater societal goals are being met as well.
And yet there may be a dark side to focusing so completely on the goals that motivate academic endeavors. What counts as valuable work in our society may preclude students from engaging in tasks they enjoy, in tasks that cause them to fall into involvement. Driven by the need to check off each task, each subgoal on the way to long-term accomplishments, students may lose the idea that intellectual pursuits can be enthralling and that there is joy simply in learning something new. When we see a young person become totally enthralled by intellectual work, we recognize implicitly that such experiences have their own value if only because deep involvement changes ones consciousness, making it supercharged, more heroic than ordinary consciousness. Although such involvement may occasionally cost a student the fulfillment of a goal, as when a student misses an important graduation deadline because he or she was too enthralled in pursuing answers to intellectual questions to finish the paper necessary for that last class, we expect that involved, excited learners are likely to fulfill their goals.
Thus, when parents and educators attempt to help students maintain the motivation they need for their schoolwork, they often do not recognize the potential dangers of too much focus on goals. Motivational support usually comes in the guise of helping students identify their goals, commit to the pursuit of these goals, and value what goal accomplishment will bring. We want to propose a different approach, one that would help students enjoy academic work for its own sake rather than solely focusing on goal accomplishment. What if instead of worrying about helping students complete their academic tasks we focused our motivational support on helping students devise ways to experience deep involvement as often as humanly possible? Under such motivational scaffolding, students might develop various volitional strategies to help them get involved in their academic tasks, not because of the outcomes to which they are aspiring but simply because they want the positive experience of involvement.
The issues and situations we have described point to the idea that motivation no longer needs to be viewed simply in its role as a precursor to task completion. Instead, motivation additionally is concerned with characteristics of task engagement, with the processes that are recruited to produce task involvement. We have argued that it is crucial to interject the importance of academic emotions into the equation. Motivational processes and strategies are interwoven with emotion and fuel each other as students approach, engage, and complete academic work.
In addition, we hoped to underscore the pleasure that can happen in academic work. One of Csikszentmihalyis early studies (1990) concluded with the sad finding that students rarely reported involvement during the academic parts of their school day. We would like to believe it is not impossible for students to get involved in academic tasks or for teachers to make learning environments attractive. However, it may be that adolescents experience simply too many competing goals given their developmental levels and the social environments they encounter at school to find any one academic task deeply involving. If these same students were queried about involvement in any task that incorporates some of the processes required by schoolwork, such as the control over writing required when students converse with their friends online, we would find that they do in fact get involved in processes that are the same as those required in schoolwork.
Finally, we offer recommendations that teachers might use to help students acquire and use volitional strategies that will promote the enjoyment of tasks as well as help them assess the usefulness of strategies for accomplishing their goals. As Corno (this issue) points out, having students discuss how they accomplish tasks is valuable. Such discussions provide opportunities for students to share their more and less successful approaches to academic work, thus modeling volitional strategies for each other, contributing to a broader repertoire of strategies for each student, and allowing for the development of self-reflection. In addition when the teacher models and voices the way by which students might decide when particular volitional strategies should be invoked, the process is demystified. If teachers highlight possible helpful strategies and when those strategies might work or fail, students can learn options, especially those needed to manage long-term projects. Third, giving students assignments that easily involve them is valuable and can be used to help students acknowledge that successful volitional strategies can lead to enjoyment in learning. As a contrast to the Taiwanese student who believed that learning only occurs with joyless hard work, teachers can demonstrate how doing work at appropriate levels of challenge can be fun.
Ultimately, the goal ought to be to help students find more joy in the learning process. What sustains individuals through the long commitment to a course of study, be it before college or beyond, is a sense that the intellectual work required is worthwhile and that ones goals are being reached. Developing the habit of seeing that the process of learning itself is deeply rewarding can help sustain the effort needed and bring enjoyment into learning.
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